Delegation for 5.16.23: Security — seeking answers — drag — rural internet — funding police

capitol u.s. green 9.30.19
Is a policy shit at the Southern border mitigating a crisis — or codified cruelty?

Border security

A major policy shift at the U.S.-Mexico border allowed immigration to overshadow even discussions of the nation defaulting on its credit.

The GOP-controlled House passed legislation Thursday billed by Republicans as a way to mitigate a crisis.

But Democrats dubbed it codified cruelty.

Hialeah Republican Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart introduced the Secure Our Border Act (HR 2), which passed on a 219-213 vote.

Immigration on the Southern border supplants debt ceiling as the hot topic in D.C. Image via AP.

“I have asked President (Joe) Biden this once, and I will ask it again,” Díaz-Balart said. “How many children and women do cartels have to exploit, smuggle, traffic, rape, and kill before the Biden administration addresses the crisis at the border?”

“How many young Americans have to die of fentanyl poisoning before they put a stop to this? The days of neglect are over. The Biden administration must be held accountable. HR 2 is a step in the right direction, and I urge President Biden to do his job and work with us to protect American lives and secure our borders once and for all.”

No House Democrats supported the package. Rep. Kathy Castor castigated the bill as the “Child Deportation Act.”

“America and the Tampa Bay area are rich with hardworking people who immigrated here from across the world seeking to build a better life for their families,” the Tampa Democrat said. “Instead of reforming America’s immigration laws, MAGA Republicans are doubling down on the costly and ineffective policies that fuel chaos, confusion and heartache. This unhelpful, unjust and un-American bill fails to offer a single meaningful solution to address the real challenges at the border.”

Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat, suggested the end of Title 42 created an opportunity for reform, not a need for restrictions. Title 42 is a COVID-19-era restriction that formally ended the same day the House bill passed, prompting much concern over border security.

“I urge my colleagues in Congress to come together to expand legal pathways and recognize the need to establish a robust refugee process critical to a secure, humane, and fair process at the southern border. We must work to bring about meaningful, bipartisan solutions that restore dignity to our immigration system.”

But Republicans fear a humanitarian crisis looms. Rep. Laurel Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican, gave one of her first speeches on the floor in favor of the bill.

“House Republicans know that border security is national security — that is why we must pass the Secure the Border Act,” she said. “This legislation will increase the number of Border Patrol agents, strengthen current law to protect unaccompanied children and bolster our border’s infrastructure. The time for reform is now. We have a constitutional duty to secure our border and to ensure our communities back home are safe — I urge my colleagues to vote yes on this bill.”

Answers in Safety Harbor

The death of a migrant child in the custody of Human Health and Services (HHS) while in Safety Harbor has several members of Florida’s congressional delegation outraged.

Sen. Rick Scott was given a briefing in Pinellas County, along with Rep. Anna Paulina Luna. Both Republicans went to the Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services Migrant Center following the death there of Honduran teenager Angel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza.

Rick Scott seeks answers for an unexplained death. Image via AP.

“A child is dead. He had parents and grandparents,” Scott said. “He had dreams just like every child we know. I am heartbroken, angry and demanding answers for how this happened. I want to thank HHS for putting a briefing together for us quickly and providing a tour of this facility today. Priority No. 1 is making sure the kids in the custody of the federal government are safe. Everybody understands that this horrible tragedy is yet another consequence of the Biden administration’s decision to have a wide-open border and give operational control of it to the savage Mexican cartels. The crisis on our border is horrific for migrant children. Kids are being trafficked by the cartels and abused, and the Biden administration has been placing kids with sponsors that are enabling this disgusting practice. Now a child has died. Enough is enough.”

Luna said there should be accountability for the death, which occurred in her district.

“It took losing an innocent child on Biden’s watch to get national attention on the stark reality that this administration’s blatant refusal to stop this insanity is taking lives. Real people. Children. Every day,” she said. “We toured the facility where this child was kept by the U.S. government before he died. I’ve said it for years: this heartbreaking and nonsensical situation impacts people on both sides and must be stopped.”

Scott also led a bicameral letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra co-signed by Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Lee and Luna, all Republicans.

“Following a previous death of a migrant child in HHS custody in 2019, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden said, ‘It’s unacceptable. It’s not who we are.’ We agree and are writing on behalf of the American people who deserve answers and to be assured that a tragedy of this nature will not happen again.”

Tossing drag overboard

As the military recruits more to join the service, Sen. Marco Rubio won’t have drag queens issuing the call.

Florida’s senior Senator introduced a bill that would prohibit the Defense Department from hosting drag performances.

The move comes after news of the Navy asking Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley, who performs drag under the name “Harpy Daniels,” to be a digital ambassador. Kelley served as the face of an outreach effort that ran from October to March.

’Harpy Daniels’ rankles Marco Rubio. Image via MC3 Charles J. Scudella III/U.S. Navy.

“The DoD needs to get their priorities straight,” Rubio said. “Congress shouldn’t have to enact legislation telling them to use their taxpayer funding on military equipment instead of adult cabarets; that’s common sense.”

He introduced a bill with Sen. Steve Daines, a Montana Republican, and said it was critical to “keep our military focused on what matters most.”

A Navy representative told Fox News the branch didn’t compensate Kelley additionally but had deployed the soldier in an effort to reach a new audience. Military officials described the current environment as “the most challenging recruiting environment it has faced since the start of the all-volunteer force.”

Wiring the heartland

Service inequity remains between rural areas with little internet and regions that are more densely populated and better wired. Reps. Kat Cammack and Darren Soto crossed the partisan aisle in hopes of bridging that digital divide.

The two introduced the Rural Internet Improvement Act in the House, along with Republican Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas and Democratic Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington. The bill would merge the Rural e-Connectivity Pilot Program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with a broadband loan and grant program. The resulting ReConnect seeks to streamline and better the efforts of the federal government and private partners to bring all communities online.

“North Central Florida’s rural communities deserve reliable, affordable and high-speed internet access for daily activities, including education, telehealth, business and more,” said Cammack, a Gainesville Republican. “It’s important to continue our critical work to ensure ReConnect works for our rural communities, and I’m pleased to join with my bipartisan colleagues in connecting more people to the internet for our increasingly digital world.”

Kat Cammack goes to bat for rural internet. Image via AP.

Soto sees similar issues in Central Florida.

“Access to reliable high-speed broadband services is no longer a luxury, but a necessity, especially for our rural communities,” he said. “The Rural Internet Improvement Act seeks to bridge the digital divide by streamlining USDA broadband authorities, focusing on truly unserved communities, and ensuring program accountability and transparency. By providing support and enhancing participation of all types of providers, we can connect more Americans to the opportunities for advancements in health care, education, and economic development that broadband services offer.”

Funding the police

Rep. John Rutherford continues to seek bipartisan support for America’s law enforcement agencies.

The Jacksonville Republican and former Sheriff once again introduced the Invest to Protect Act with Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat.

The legislation would provide grants to police departments with under 200 sworn officers. Funding could provide recruitment tools, mental health support and training. That includes investment in treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, which has spiked among officers in recent years.

John Rutherford is calling for more support for LEO’s. Image via Facebook.

“Last Congress, the House passed the bipartisan Invest to Protect Act to help small law enforcement agencies with their recruiting and retention, training and improving officer well-being,” Rutherford said. “As a former Sheriff myself, I know the difference this funding can make, and I see the challenges smaller agencies face when trying to navigate the federal grant process. I am eager to again work with Rep. Gottheimer on passing our bill that will streamline the grant process for smaller law enforcement agencies and provide valuable resources to our officers.”

The House passed the bill in 2022, and provisions ultimately manifested in a federal budget. Police organizations came out immediately in support of the bill.

“The Department of Justice’s law enforcement assistance grant programs provide much-needed resources, training, and technical assistance to many state and local law enforcement agencies,” said National Association of Police Organizations Executive Director Bill Johnson.

“However, small agencies across the country are getting left behind due to their inability to complete the onerous Federal grant solicitation process. The Invest to Protect Act will create a broad grant program specifically for small agencies that will give them easier access to resources to help them train their officers, implement or expand body-worn camera programs, and retain and hire officers.”

Military wokeness

Multiple members of Florida’s congressional delegation voiced concerns about woke ideologies infecting America’s military. Both Reps. Mike Waltz, a St. Augustine Beach Republican, and Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, filed legislation seeking to restrain progressive overreach in the armed forces.

Waltz introduced the Working to Address Recruiting and Retention to Improve Our Readiness (WARRIOR) Act, which would freeze hiring at the Equal Employment Opportunity divisions and audit any diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs. It would also require an inventory and justification of any race-conscious materials in academy curricula.

Mike Waltz steps up the battle against woke ideologies in the military. Image via Facebook.

“Under the Biden administration, the Pentagon has diverted its focus from lethality and have instead pushed initiatives that have politicized our warfighting ranks and harmed our military readiness,” said Waltz, House Armed Services Committee Readiness Subcommittee Chair.

“Our military faces the worst recruiting crisis since the Vietnam War because young Americans don’t want to join what was once a trusted institution that has become overly politicized and hyper-focused on DEI initiatives. The reforms proposed in this legislation will restore a merit-based culture to our ranks, audit unnecessary and political DEI programs, and require cost-benefit analysis reports for green-energy-focused proposals.”

Steube, an Army veteran, wants to end those programs altogether. He filed The Eliminate DEI in the Military Act, which would cut off funding to diversity programs in the military branches, academies and the Department of Defense.

“The military’s sole focus should be on the safety and security of the American people, but under the Biden administration, our nation’s military has become engulfed in left-wing propaganda. These so-called DEI programs are harming the recruitment and retention of military personnel,” he said.

“Recently, the Air Force selected students for a pilot training class based solely on specific race and gender requirements, rather than by time served in their units. What message does that send to individuals who put in the time, but don’t check a DEI box? My legislation ensures these divisive and racist activities are eliminated from our nation’s military.”

Double taxation

Seniors today spent years supporting Social Security, but now pay a tax on income from it. Rep. Daniel Webster, a Clermont Republican, wants to put an end to that practice.

The Representative, whose district includes The Villages, introduced the Senior Citizens Tax Elimination Act (HR 3206). That would amend the tax code introduced in 1986 by terminating Tier I railroad retirement benefits and Social Security benefits from gross income.

Daniel Webster seeks to end double taxation of Social Security.

“For decades, seniors have paid into Social Security with their tax dollars. Now, when many seniors are on a fixed income and struggling financially, they are being double taxed because of income taxes on their Social Security benefits,” Webster said. “This is wrong, and I’m pleased to once again co-introduce this legislation to repeal this tax.”

Bob Carlstrom, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens Action, voiced support for the bill, and said citizens will feel immediate benefits from its passage.

“As this legislation takes effect, seniors will notice their tax liability is significantly reduced and will no longer deal with the ‘double tax’ on their federally earned benefits,” he said.

Hot air

Florida’s delegation has long stuck together to fight oil drilling off the state’s coastline. Now, Sunshine State Republicans are collectively taking a stance against wind turbine energy.

Rep. Bruce Westerman, the Arkansas Republican chairing the House Natural Resources Committee, led a letter to the Government Accountability Office. But the other signatures on the letter, first reported by the Tampa Bay Times, come from every Republican representing Florida in the House.

“We request that the GAO conduct a study analyzing the potential impacts of offshore wind energy development and associated infrastructure, such as transmission lines, substations, and vessel traffic, in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico Planning Area, the South Atlantic Planning Area, and the Straits of Florida Planning Area,” the letter states.

Luna told the Times she’s concerned energy windmills pose a similar threat to Florida’s coastline as rigs.

Anna Paulina Luna pushes back against wind turbine energy. Image via Facebook.

“People travel from around the world to see our pristine beaches — not windmills,” she said. “My Florida Republican colleagues and I are committed to ensuring that no turbines are placed off Florida’s coasts, and we look forward to seeing this study’s conclusive support for protecting our home from wind development.”

Resistance to wind energy, unlike a fight against oil interests, appears for now to be a partisan fight. Only Republicans signed the letter.

Disastrous evictions

The rent, in South Florida and many parts of America, is still too damn high, according to Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick.

That’s especially true when communities aren’t even fully livable.

The Miramar Democrat last week filed the Federal Disaster Housing Stability Act, which she said could help keep renters and homeowners under their roofs in times of economic disaster.

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick wants renters and homeowners to keep a roof over their heads. Image via AP.

“Americans affected by natural disasters should not have to worry about losing their homes and becoming homeless as they work to rebuild their lives,” she said. “The historic flooding that hit the heart of Florida’s 20th Congressional District in April 2023 was a reminder that we must be proactive about protecting the financial security of American families confronting the climate crisis. This bill is about providing a safety net for our citizens who need it most, and it’s about protecting families from being forced to start over when they are at their most vulnerable.”

The bill would prohibit any evictions or foreclosures during disasters declared by the President, along with any booting of residents for nonpayment within six months of such an event.

Housing advocates quickly lined up behind the proposal.

“Disasters that damage or destroy homes create acute affordability challenges in communities already experiencing a severe shortage of affordable housing, further squeezing the lowest income or newly displaced families,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

“Unscrupulous landlords exploit this crisis by dramatically increasing rents or evicting tenants from their homes so that they can charge higher rents to the next household, leading to even more housing instability and, in worst cases, homelessness. Congress should enact the Federal Disaster Housing Stability Act introduced by Congresswoman Cherfilus-McCormick to help keep renters stably housed after a disaster and to stop landlords from displacing low-income households through rent gouging.”

Tri-Rail trip

Infrastructure spending continues to flow to Florida from a bill passed last Congress. Rep. Lois Frankel announced some $71.7 million will soon be pulled into the station in South Florida. The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority landed the massive federal award, which will be used to replace train cars.

Tri-Rail is ready for a major upgrade.

“This new grant will enable Tri-Rail to upgrade and modernize its fleet of trains, making rail travel for thousands of South Floridians safer and more comfortable, with the extra benefit of getting more cars off the road,” said Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat.

The cars will be used to transport more than 3 million Tri-Rail riders in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Frankel said all sending comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which she and all Florida Democrats supported.

Targeting gun violence

With mass shootings killing a half dozen barely making national news, Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Parkland Democrat, said it’s time to limit access to semi-automatic weapons. He filed legislation that would raise the purchase age for such weapons to 25 nationwide.

Jared Moskowitz is a stalwart supporter of measures to curb gun violence. Image via AP.

“Our communities are plagued by gun violence,” said Moskowitz, who represented Parkland in the Florida Legislature during the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High shooting in 2018. “What will it take to protect our children? We can’t continue to needlessly endure heartbreak after heartbreak as our public places become targets of violence. We no longer need moments of silence; we need moments of action. I refuse to think that nothing can get done.”

A push to age 25 goes further than the law he sponsored in Florida after the mass shooting five years ago. The Florida law, which still stands, prohibits long gun purchases until age 21.

On this day

May 16, 1868 — “Impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson” via the United States Senate — President Johnson clashed repeatedly with the Republican-controlled Congress over the reconstruction of the defeated South. This clash culminated in the House voting to impeach the President. In the Senate, Republicans held more seats than the two-thirds majority required to remove Johnson from office. When the trial concluded, however, the President had won acquittal, not because most Senators supported his policies but because a sufficient minority wished to protect the office of the President and preserve the constitutional balance of powers.

May 16, 1918 — “Congress passes Sedition Act” via — The United States Congress passes the Sedition Act, legislation designed to protect America’s participation in World War I. Along with the Espionage Act of the previous year, the Sedition Act was orchestrated largely by A. Mitchell Palmer, the Attorney General under President Woodrow Wilson. The Espionage Act passed shortly after the U.S. entrance into the war in early April 1917 made it a crime for any person to convey information intended to interfere with the armed forces’ prosecution of the war effort or to promote the success of the country’s enemies.

Staff Reports

One comment

  • Dont Say FLA

    May 16, 2023 at 3:39 pm

    Why is the Rhonda government attacking an honorable Navy serviceman for having fun as a drag queen when Rhonda himself was a prison guard at Guantanamo Bat and we all saw the pictures of what went on down there? Oh Rhonda, bless your heart.

Comments are closed.


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